Date of Award

Summer 7-22-2014

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

Linguistics

First Advisor

Kira Hall

Second Advisor

Karen Tracy

Third Advisor

Andy Cowell

Abstract

As sociolinguistic research has demonstrated, identity is a fluid, performative, and perpetually negotiated phenomena (Bucholtz & Hall 2004, 2005), by which individuals make subtle interactional alignments that can have far reaching societal impacts. However, for identity alignments to be meaningful and understood, individuals must make use of resources that are culturally salient and ideologically recognizable, and then make transformations to these resources by creating new meaning within them (Eckert 2008). One ideologically recognizable framework that is prevalent in everyday practice and serves as a productive resource for identity work is heteronormativity: the belief or assumption that there are two distinct genders (i.e. male and female) that behave in traditional gender-appropriate ways, including the performance of heterosexual desire (Cameron & Kulick 2006; Kitzinger 2005). This study analyzes the testimonies of three same-sex couples that were presented in the 2011 Colorado hearings on Senate Bill 172, the same-sex civil union bill. I focus on how each couple uses a heteronormative-themed narrative within their testimony as a means to assert themselves as unmarked moral members of society. In an analysis that draws from critical discourse analysis, narrative analysis, and sociolinguistics, I illustrate how this strategy challenges the very notion of heteronormativity: first, by calling into question who can be a 'typical member‘ of this group, and second, by making explicit that gay and lesbian individuals can have the same morals, values, and lifestyles as heterosexuals.

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